AI. Artificial intelligence. Machine learning. These terms mean the same thing but is AI a good thing? Or is it the harbinger of the end of humanity?

Science fiction becomes reality. Again …

Science fiction stories often predict new technologies that become everyday necessities. Star Trek’s communicator and tricorder were devices that practically everyone in the late 60s wanted. Today those two futuristic fantasies are in everyone’s purse or pocket in the form of a smartphone. “The Terminator” movies forecast a dismal, apocalyptic future where the very existence of humanity was threatened by the AI — Skynet. Movies — “Her” and “Jexi” — suggest falling in love with AIs like Siri and Alexa.

Doom or boon?

This is a “Is the glass half empty or half full?” question. There are two sides to it. Many questions arise in thinking about AI: Would you trust a self-driving car? How about a jet airliner that can land itself? Do you trust the speed adjusting cruise control in newer automobiles? Do you actually believe your GPS?

For each of these questions, there is a benefit and a risk. Tesla drivers have been videoed literally asleep at the wheel while their car steers them along a freeway. Spoiler alert: Modern airliners can land themselves. I often chicken out and hit the brakes before the distance ranging cruise control in my Nissan Murano kicks in. And yes. I do (for the most part) trust my GPS to take me where I want to go. Although sometimes it seems like it chooses the most convoluted route to my destination.

AI is a tool

Period. All of the dooms or boons above require interactions with a human before the AI can do anything. Take comfort in that. AI is only a tool that we can choose to employ or not.

I have been editing photos either chemically in the darkroom during the time of film or digitally with primarily Photoshop for decades. Photofocus turns 21 this year. Photoshop celebrates 30 years this coming February, for a bit of perspective. Any more than a photo made on film was finished until it was developed, digital photographs aren’t finished out of the camera.

I’ll give you that fast shots done with a smartphone for Instagram don’t get edited. On the other hand, who doesn’t at least click through the filters before pressing share? We want to edit our photos. The problem is that we take so many more than we have time to finish on the computer.

AI to the rescue

The game has changed. Once upon a time, models wanted one or maybe two or three photos of each outfit or headshot. No more. With social media hungry for more and more content, models want more and more finished photos to post, share and tweet.

The days of investing between 15 minutes to an hour to finish an image are behind us. Well, behind me at least for social media deliverables. Yet. Sigh. The times have changed. Clients want what clients want.

Putting Luminar 4 to the test

Aria sent me a list of 52 picks from a recent session. 19 of them were of one outfit. Doing the minimum retouching in Photoshop — quick and dirty — would have taken an hour and a half. Would AI help make this process faster without being a second rate solution?

I exported Aria’s picks as original Canon 5DSr 50 MB files, then opened the folder in Luminar 4.

A folder of high resolution Canon RAW files open in Luminar 4
19 Canon 50mb files open and ready for enhancing in Luminar 4

I had the choice to use it as a plug-in in Lightroom Classic, but decided to use it as a stand-alone processor. The total time to run the folder from opening it in Luminar 4 to setting the adjustments to outputting final files was about 5 minutes.

Two quick adjustments — AI Skin Enhancer and Glow did the work.
The essential and portrait enhancements were quick to set up and fast to output the finished photos.

The photos below show how well Luminar 4’s AI works in getting a lot of photo finishing done — fast!

Artificial intelligence Luminar 4 style just might be the self-driving car of editing our photos. It’s good now. I can hardly wait to see how its machine learning improves going forward.

Photofocus celebrates 21 years — enter to win a camera of your choice up to $3000!